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With the creation of the School of Education and Humanities, the University of Guyana has embarked on a programme of reorganisation recommended by various studies, including the presidential commission and a strategic plan funded by the United Nations Development Programme.
Another initiative is the creation of the School of Legal Studies, which is to be accomplished by upgrading the Department of Law. Proposals for establishing the School from September 2004 are now being studied by the UG administration and the Faculty of Social Sciences.
The Faculties of Arts and Education have been merged to form the School of Education and Humanities, which Deryck Bernard, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, now heads. Tota Mangar and Wilburn Weever are his assistants. Stabroek News understands that the faculty will pioneer the introduction of a common introductory two-year programme of ĎCore Coursesí to address certain fundamental deficiencies, which appear in many students in terms of breadth of learning and grasp of the basics of scholarship.
It also proposes to make radical changes in the Use of English programmes in the university to address the poor quality of English, grammar and communication skills of undergraduates, as well as address the issue of making teachersí skills emerging from the university appropriate to the needs of the education system.
Stabroek News understands that the university has begun talks with the government to ensure that the research carried on by the school is in keeping with national needs and the problems facing the education system.
Since its establishment the School has been strengthened by the return of Dr Desrey Fox with a doctorate in linguistics from Rice University in the United States and the recruitment of Dr Boufoy-Bastick and Dr Sandra Anderson in languages and nursery education respectively.
In its proposal for the change-over to a School of Legal Studies, the Department of Law says that transition would require it to have control over its budget, and an increase in fees since its programmes will be run on a cost-recovery basis.
The law departmentís proposal for the transition also calls for a change in its relationship with the Faculty of Social Sciences to allow it greater autonomy than it enjoys at present as a department within it. It also calls for the Social Sciences Faculty to be represented on the Board of the proposed School of Legal Studies and the head of the School and his deputy to sit on the faculty board. The Guyana Bar Association, the Judiciary and the Faculty of Law of the University of the West Indies (UWI) will also be represented on the board of the School.
Another change it proposes is in the reporting relationship of the head of the proposed School. It recommends that the head of the School should report to the Vice Chancellor and manage the Schoolís academic programme and, as a consequence, the annual operating budget and other resources. An assistant dean, who will have the primary responsibility for organising teaching and academic programmes for both law and non-law students, will assist the head of the School in its management.
The proposed School of Legal Studies will offer not only the LLB degree but also continuing legal education courses in association with the Guyana Bar Association. It also plans to offer a graduate programme on International Trade and International Environmental Law, a legal information service and a legal aid and advisory service.
The proposals say the change to a professional law school would facilitate better regional co-operation with the law faculty of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in the areas of undergraduate and graduate studies and a revision of the collaborative agreement between the two universities and the Council of Legal Education to include staff development and staff exchanges.
With regard to the fees the departmentís proposals say that the annual operating budget of the School should be financed by the tuition and other fees it generates. This, it says, would necessitate an increase in fees for local students reading for the departmentís LLB programme from US$3000-$5000 and for overseas-based Guyanese and non-Guyanese nationals from US$4000-$6000. The latter figure is less than 20 per cent of what is charged by colleges and universities in North America and the Caribbean.
It also proposes that non-law students reading law courses for their degrees pay $30,000 for each such course.
It justifies the increases by pointing out that to sustain both categories of international students and the reputation of the law programme at home, the quality of teaching and the curriculum and the delivery of the courses would have to be upgraded to a level comparable to programmes offered at other regional institutions.
To do this it says that it would need to recruit, retain and train highly qualified staff whom it argues, would only continue at the university if they were paid realistic salaries and accorded conditions similar to those at other regional institutions.
It points out too that no credible legal programme could be developed and sustained by relying primarily on part-time and temporary staff.
The increases would allow it to double the salary of the departmentís staff, which is still considerably less than the salaries paid to lecturers and professors in the Faculty of Law at UWI.
The proposal adds that the increases would see the income of the department rising from $61M to $108.4M in 2004 when the School of Legal Studies comes on stream. Its expenditure would increase from $41.6M, of which salaries would account for $27.4M to $54.8M. The departmentís contribution towards the central administration of the university would rise from $12.2M to $21.68M. With the increases it is asking for, the department projects a surplus of $14.6M, which it says it would apply towards a scholarship fund and for the enhancement of the physical and research facilities for teaching and outreach activities.
In asking for control of its budget, the department notes that the proposed School of Legal Studies should operate autonomously in sourcing its funds and employ transparency and accountability in its use of those funds.
It notes that despite the rise in the income of the department as a result of the increase in the number of students admitted to the departmentís programme (35-55 from 1999) no money has been spent on development. It recalls too that when the full LLB programme started in 1993, the government committed $14M annually as a special grant but it was only paid for two years with $11M being paid annually to UWI as fees for second marking examinations, and the balance dissipated on university business.